The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines theory as “a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.” A student in interdisciplinary studies needs to understand theory well for four useful reasons.
The first reason is, in order to work in a discipline successfully, you have to be able to use the appropriate vocabulary for each discipline. The second reason is that theory is often talked about among scholars in different disciplines and is what creates the types of
questions that are asked, what is investigated, and the understandings that come from this. The third reason is that theories create a lot of the disciplinary understandings for each problem and in these understandings is where an interdisciplinary studies student would need to mesh as you gain more knowledge in interdisciplinary studies. The final reason is that there is a straightforward link between a discipline’s favored theories and its favored methods of research. You should not just accept evidence for a theory from the methods favored by a discipline all willy nilly, because disciplines choose methods that make their theories look good.
The program I created with my major is a bit different from other interdisciplinary studies programs because the disciplines aren’t much different from each other. I am combining French and Spanish and learning their languages and about their cultures. These disciplines aren’t very different, as they are in the same department at my university. Their theories and insights won’t be very different when it comes to learning the languages (or maybe it will, I haven’t started yet so I can’t be certain), but I bet there will be differences when I start learning about their cultures. People from different cultures tend to think differently, so I bet when learning about them there will be differences between their theories and understandings.
Repko, A. F., Szostak, R. & Buchberger, M. P. (2014). Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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